Page last updated at 20:13 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Salmond comments row intensifies

Scottish Parliament chamber
Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson has been urged to take action

The Scottish Parliament's presiding officer is facing demands that he intervene in a row over whether Alex Salmond misled Holyrood.

At last week's question time the first minister said a funding wrangle involving the Scottish Inter Faith Council was, at that stage, resolved.

But Scottish Lib Dem Leader Tavish Scott has insisted it was not.

The party has now demanded action, but Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson said the issue was not a matter for him.

The row blew up after Mr Scott grilled the first minister after redundancy notices were sent to staff at the Inter Faith Council on 11 December, as it had not secured funding beyond 16 January.

Mr Salmond said at the time the council would not be closed as "the matter has now been resolved".

Like all matters involving grant funding, that assurance required to be subsequently set down in writing
Fergus Ewing
Public safety minister
But the Liberal Democrats said later that an e-mail from the council's convener, Major Alan Dixon, showed the matter was not resolved.

The message, sent on 6 January to Public Safety Minister Fergus Ewing, welcomed an "assurance" that the funding would continue.

It also looked forward to a meeting with civil servants to "complete discussions and finalise the funding issue".

Mr Scott said he accepted Mr Ewing's involvement and assurance but insisted: "It was not resolved at the point the first minister told parliament it was."

Mr Ewing insisted the matter was resolved, adding: "Like all matters involving grant funding, that assurance required to be subsequently set down in writing."

Ministerial code

The Lib Dems have now put a motion down in parliament calling on Mr Salmond to apologise to MSPs and urging the presiding officer to "play a constructive and appropriate role in ensuring this happens".

The call was supported by Labour and the Conservatives.

But Mr Fergusson said it was for MSPs to consider whether the issue should be taken up by Holyrood's standards committee.

"It is for ministers to respond to any complaint made under the ministerial code, and not a matter for me," he said.

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